Have you ever taken what you thought was a wonderful picture, only to look back at it and see that your cutie pie has turned a Violet-tint of blue? Or that your mom's family looks orange? What's up with that?
Did you know that light has different colors? As if you needed one more thing to consider when taking pictures of your kids, right? It's true - different kinds of light have different colors. Bright sunlight can make whites appear blue. Late afternoon sun can make whites appear orange. And indoor flourescent lights can make white appear green. If your camera doesn't know what color light it's looking at, it can record something that look fine while you're in the moment looking at it, but totally off when you look back at it.
This is because your brain is still much much smarter than your camera. It just "knows" what white is supposed to look like, and automatically adjusts everything else in your head to appear correctly. Your camera, on the other hand, usually needs a little adjustment - a white balance - to tell it what white is supposed to look like under different conditions.
Here's a perfect example of different light sources having different colors. Do you see how the light in front of baby's face looks to be orange and glowing? Even the wall in the back-right has an orange tint to it. That's because the paper lantern has an incandescent bulb inside of it which is to the yellow side of the color spectrum. Now look at the light coming from the left - do you see the highlights on her forehead and hitting the top of the stuffed pig's head? They're much bluer in color - in fact, look at the wall on the far left, it's almost completely blue. That's because the afternoon sun of a cloudy cloudy day was pouring in through that window - that kind of has much more blue in it than the orange glow of incandescent light.
To understand what's going on under the hood of white balance, let's talk a little science. Light is different colors because (and this matters much more to physicists and graphic designers than to us) it's actually different temperatures. As all things counterintuitive in photography go, the cooler the temperature is the more yellow-based it's light. The warmer the temperature, the more blue-based. This becomes more confusing as photographers still refer to warm light as being orange, and cool light as being blue.
But you don't really have to remember those details past this conversation! The good news is that your camera does a lot of the white balance work for you. It has a few different settings to help you out. Just let it know what kind of light you're working with - bright sun, shade, indoor, etc. There's even an automatic setting that works most of the time.
We recommend that you use the automatic White Balance setting and shoot in RAW. Your camera will get it right often enough to save you the adjustment work 90% of the time. But if it doesn't guess right - then you can adjust the RAW white balance settings in your computer without screwing anything else up!
In the pictures below, taken on the cloudiest of winter days, the camera interpereted the light to be blue - too blue! But with a quick adjustmentt in our post processing software to the RAW white balance settings, thie picture looks correct to our eye.
So set that white balance to automatic, make sure you're shooting in RAW and it's just one less thing to think about while you're taking those beautiful pics of your babes.